Letter to the editor

Family in GDR

You have raised a topic that is emotionally touching and worrying to me – the family in the German Democratic Republic, GDR. I was born in the GDR in the late 1950s and lived there until the end of this state.
With all respect for the reader, who last wrote a critical letter to the editor about family in the GDR, he left the GDR at the age of 9 years. In childhood one does not have a complete overview of the political and social situation. Additionally, you always had a critical view, in case for just that reason you had to justify the abandonment of the GDR. Contacts or visits can not replace the permanent life in the GDR environment and do not give a full picture.
My father had three brothers and sisters, who all went to the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, BRD after the war (most of my mother’s relatives also went there). My parents were refugees from Silesia respectively Hinterpommern. My father deliberately decided to stay in the GDR. Due to the loss of his homeland and the experience of war he hated the Nazis and observed that many former high ranking Nazis could continue their life in the BRD. In GDR meanwhile this was not usual, lawyers and teachers, university teachers, etc, who had been in the Nazi Party, were dismissed. There was a radical fracture with the Nazi era and my father liked that. (Now some may scream – yes, but there were exceptions, especially in the military – but these were exceptions.)
Surely, in the GDR there were ideological guidelines and at school children were educated in the spirit of the state. But still many ideas weren’t bad. For example we were almost overwhelmed by a consistent peace education, and already in the kindergarten and later at school we sang a lot of peace songs, again and again. I still did a premilitary training and had to visit a civil defense camp for 3 weeks during my studies. It always was a matter of defense, we were never instigated, certainly not in the aggressive sense, or even for a war of aggression. Anyone who says the opposite is lying. I am very grateful to the GDR up to this day. As students we visited twice a concentration camp and saw many antiwar films and read books on the antifascist resistance, etc. That was good so.
But in addition, there was something that did not exist in the West at least since 1968 – despite the Nazipast we were educated in the sense of a strong love for our homeland. This was exaggerated in the GDR, for example through doping in sports. The GDR leadership wanted everyone to be proud of his country.
In the West there was no consistent anti-fascist attitude after 1945, much was kept under cover. That is why there was the strong eruptive 1968 movement in the West, which, in addition to many legitimate changes, unfortunately pushed beyond the target and neglected or even abolished many good and important values. That is the most important difference, I think.
Never in my life I was as happy as in the GDR. My childhood was very happy and still today I am grateful to my father giving me the opportunity to experience the GDR and not to grow up in the BRD. Of course the family was promoted – everyone who wanted got a place in a kindergarten. Mothers could also work and thus most of them wanted to. The most important thing: There wasn’t any existential fear, no one got homeless, no one got hungry, nobody had to get unemployed. These were important prerequisites for the happiness of my childhood, because my parents did not know all these fears – our family lived completely carefree.
Unfortunately, I cannot confirm this for today. After the turnaround unemployment, meanwhile part-time work, came. You earned so little money that one just got lucky. The worst thing – today fear is growing that a war could break out again. The permanent Russia-baiting is intolerable. There are so many lies, therefore I read Zeit-Fragen.
To avoid misunderstandings – I can also see the critical aspects of the GDR, and it has probably vanished for good reasons. As we had many relatives in the West, I immediately experienced the difficult aspects of the GDR family policy. For example, my father only got three days off to attend the funeral of his sister. As she lived in Saarbrücken (West-Germany) and we on the Baltic Sea coast, which meant a long trip, only one day remained for the actual occasion. The mother of my father wrote to the GDR state secretary in order to visit her son. Later there were travel facilitations. Those were difficulties enough for the family. However, one must not forget that the young GDR still wanted unity.
It was Konrad Adenauer, who in any case clung to the ties to the West. If Germany had decided to stay neutral, we would not have been divided, and the Russians had retreated. Unfortunately this did not happen.
As a child in the GDR you had a high appreciation, we had a very good education, people from Finland came to the GDR to take a look at this system (probably the good Finnish school system of today dates back to these visits). We had free education also at university, cheap good books, many good films (the fairy tale films from the GDR are still popular today), many sports and culture events, affordable for everyone. After the turnaround we had to realise at first an astonishing hostility concerning children in West Germany. By temporary employment contracts or unemployment, by existential fears one often prevents the fulfillment of a child’s wish. In short, black-and-white thinking is not appropriate.
Conclusion: In the GDR many traditional values such as the family were respected and supported (including state-owned marriage loans, which did not have to be repaid at the birth of a child) – in the West traditional values were threatened by the system (high crime, threatening job loss, higher social pressure) by values such as unrestrained self-determination and individuality, little common sense and family spirit, much social insecurity, danger of wars, and massive immigration of the family (by the way, by the superfluous gender delusion).
People who have lived there, can judge GDR best. During the GDR period, I was often very critical concerning the state system of GDR, but today I’m often worried about unilateral and distorted presentations . The “coronation” was a claim in “Kulturzeit”, which claimed that racism and antisemitism were rampant in the GDR. This was really outrageous and does not correspond to the facts at all. But that is another issue.
Perhaps this too: In the GDR, the one-sided representation of the events in the media disturbed me later or even that of the historical picture. But now I see that our actual current state hardly makes any difference. Earlier in the GDR, you additionally could inform yourself by “Western Medias”, today on the Internet or from time to time via broadcasts after 11 pm too.

M. Wenk

(Translation Current Concerns)